Hepatitis E virus as a Cause of Acute Hepatitis in The Netherlands

Aletta T. R. Tholen, Janke Schinkel, Richard Molenkamp, C. Wim Ang

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Recent studies indicate that 27% of Dutch blood donors have evidence of past infection with HEV. However, the low number of diagnosed HEV infections indicates either an asymptomatic course or under diagnosis. We investigated whether HEV is a cause of acute hepatitis in Dutch patients and which diagnostic modality (serology or PCR) should be used for optimal detection. Serum samples were retrospectively selected from non-severely immuno-compromised patients from a university hospital population, suspected of having an infectious hepatitis. Criteria were: elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT> 34 U/l) and request for antibody testing for CMV, EBV or Hepatitis A (HAV). All samples were tested for HEV using ELISA and PCR. Ninety patients/sera were tested, of which 22% were HEV IgG positive. Only one serum was IgM positive. HEV PCR was positive in two patients: one patient was both HEV IgM and IgG positive, the other patient was only IgG positive. Both HEV RNA positive samples belonged to genotype 3. Evidence of recent infection with CMV, EBV and HAV was found in 13%, 10% and 3% respectively. Although our study is limited by small numbers, we conclude that HEV is a cause of acute hepatitis in hospital associated patients in The Netherlands. Moreover, in our study population the prevalence of acute HAV (3%) was almost similar to acute HEV (2%). We propose to incorporate HEV testing in panels for acute infectious hepatitis. Negative results obtained for HEV IgM in a HEV PCR positive patient, indicates that antibody testing alone may not be sufficient and argues for PCR as a primary diagnostic tool in hospital associated patients. The high percentage of HEV IgG seropositivity confirms earlier epidemiological studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0146906
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2016

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